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July 14, 2006

China’s New Leadership
Dr. David M. Lampton

On July 14, USCPF hosted the fifth lecture in its Policymakers Seminar Series. Dr. David Lampton, the Director of China Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Director of China Studies at the Nixon Center, addressed the topic of China’s New Leadership.

Dr. Lampton began by outlining two important topics for discussion: Who are the Chinese leaders and what are their objectives? He also noted that despite a widespread interest in the topic of China’s leadership, there remains a relative lack of knowledge. Nonetheless, it is an interesting time to be watching China’s leadership, he said.

First, China’s leaders are in preparation for the 17th Party Congress elections where President Hu will ‘be up for a second term’. Second, the 11th Five-year plan (currently in development) will focus on building infrastructure and modernization. Third, China is now more strategically confident and sees itself as playing an important strategic role in the world. Finally, China’s 4th generation of leadership has taken on a decidedly different tone compared with past generations of leadership.

The first generation, under Mao Zedong, believed in coercion and ideological persuasion. Deng Xiaoping focused on economic reforms and Jiang Zemin emphasized the importance of globalization. President Hu now focuses on modernization and China’s increasing importance as a strategic player in world affairs.

The current leadership has differentiated itself from previous generations in a number of other ways as well. The entire Politburo is now made up of engineers, pragmatists and technocrats who concentrate on ‘getting the facts’. A more educated leadership is contributing to a better understanding of international politics and foreign relations.

The current leadership is also more comfortable with globalization as they have witnessed the effects of trade on China’s economy and hope to continue its ‘opening’. Finally, while the Chinese leadership continues to want a good relationship with the US, it is also now focusing on developing relationships with Europe and Russia among other countries.

Dr. Lampton concluded is remarks by noting that the new Chinese leadership is pursuing a pragmatic and factual approach to both internal and external issues. He believes that the United States can, and should, work towards building a better relationship with China.


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